August 20, 2023
Labor Day, which falls on the first Monday in September, has been a national holiday in the U.S. since 1894. That’s when President Grover Cleveland signed the law creating a holiday to acknowledge the contributions of workers.
This Labor Day, we can celebrate how far the industry has come over the past nearly 130 years. Manufacturing now provides better employment opportunities for frontline teams and offers safer on-the-job working conditions. Individuals can also use connected workforce applications to boost productivity, creating business value for their employers, while they develop new skills and actualize their own potential.
The world of manufacturing work looks different than it did in 1894. Unemployment was growing, Americans were moving to cities to seek industrial jobs, and workers were joining labor unions to advocate for better working conditions.
Artisan work in the 1800s had given way to mechanized factories. Inventions between 1870 and 1899 included the telephone, the first commercially viable electric bulb, the steam turbine, the automobile, the alternating current motor and transformer, the escalator, and the diesel-fueled internal combustion engine. These innovations helped propel in a new era of industry, where goods could be produced at scale and transported around the country and where individuals could live and work in urban environments.
However, many manufacturing staff worked in unsafe conditions. According to the Library of Congress website, from 1894 to 1915, “The working conditions in factories were often harsh. Hours were long, typically ten to twelve hours a day. Working conditions were frequently unsafe and led to deadly accidents. Tasks tended to be divided for efficiency’s sake which led to repetitive and monotonous work for employees.”
For these workers, factory employment was often just a job, providing the wages they needed to feed their families. In addition, they needed to keep their wits about them to avoid a disabling injury or worse.
Thankfully, those days are long gone. Today’s factories are marvels of high-tech production that use data, analytics, and automation to control how goods are produced. Frontline teams increasingly use brain, not brawn, to start up production, oversee throughput, and ensure quality products.
Factories are also a lot safer for workers. The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act, passed in 1970 in the U.S., requires employers “To assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women.” Modern plants now have safety staff, regular training, documentation, established processes, and visual alerts in higher-risk areas.
Frontline job opportunities include working on production lines, serving in maintenance roles, overseeing quality processes, training staff, and more. The U.S. manufacturing industry faces a shortage of 500,000 workers, and many companies face difficulties hiring workers of all levels.
In addition, with the fast pace of digitization, workers now have the opportunity to gain new skills that makes industry companies covet them even more.
That means that there is enormous opportunity for workers in manufacturing: across sectors, companies, roles, and seniority levels. Frontline employees who show initiative and develop relevant skills can rise rapidly through the ranks.
Workers can use digital tools like the QAD Redzone Connected Workforce Solution to propose new ideas to improve processes, develop new skills, and share knowledge. Teams work together to win the day and are celebrated for their accomplishments with digital high-fives and more palpable incentives – gaining acknowledgement at daily huddles and town halls and financial rewards.
“It’s great to see our performance up on the TVs and get ‘high-fives’ from our supervisors, congratulating us on our work. Everyone is able to see that, and it makes you really proud of what you do and how hard you work,” says Jesse Meis, an expander with Coil Specialist, which deployed the QAD Redzone Productivity module in October 2022.
With QAD Redzone, frontline staff can work with passion and purpose, knowing that their efforts will be recognized and gaining the digital learning tools they need to progress their careers, taking on more responsible positions. Digital skills matrices are aligned to factories’ real-time needs, meaning workers can put new skills immediately to work.
Claremont Foods, a family-owned business located in Niwot, CO, used QAD Redzone to transform its business and create new opportunities for workers. The company deployed all four QAD Redzone modules – Productivity, Compliance, Reliability, and Learning – in just 12 months.
Claremont Foods increased production capacity by 150%, achieved a productivity increase of 60%, and completed 13,000 quality checks in one year’s time. The company gave its frontline team raises and promoted 10 individuals for their creativity and hard work.
QAD Redzone provides a win-win for frontline workers and their employers. Frontline teams gain the data, situational awareness, and digital tools with QAD Redzone they need to drive change. Meanwhile, employers can see who is most engaged, provides peer leadership, and offers the best ideas, using this information to drive promotions.
In our experience, we’ve often seen employers select outstanding talent to lead the deployment of new modules, move into roles where they gain cross-functional skills, and then get promoted to supervisory positions. With this kind of opportunity, workers are more likely to stay and build long-lasting careers with their employers.
This Labor Day, there’s a lot to cheer about. Not only do workers get the day off to enjoy time off with their friends and family, but frontline teams are gaining new skills, opportunity, and recognition in a fast-growing industry with enormous potential.